Comb Honeybees secrete wax from their abdomens to build the comb.

Middle-aged worker bees are responsible for constructing the combs. Using wax secreted from their abdomens, they build the combs downward from the top of the hive. They attach each comb, which consists of two layers of horizontal, hexagonally shaped cells, to the roof and walls, leaving small passageways along the walls to allow movement between combs. In a typical nest, the combs will have cells for storing honey up top, followed by a layer of pollen-storage cells, and then beneath that the brood cells for workers and, off to one side, drones. Finally, at the bottom or off by themselves to the sides hang the peanut-shaped cells that house infant queens.

Larvae in cells Each brood cell contains a single larva of a honeybee.

A natural nest will have roughly 100,000 cells in half a dozen combs, whose total surface area will be about 27 square feet. It takes more than two and a half pounds of beeswax to create such a structure (not to mention about 15 pounds of honey to synthesize that wax). A colony needs those 100,000 cells to store the more than 40 pounds of honey it requires to survive a typical temperate winter and to provide nursery space for the roughly 20,000 immatures that the overwintering bees will rear in the spring.

Photos: ©1998 ORF.